Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we begin this new year, make us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Give us Godly insights into the evil around us and move us to avoid it, curtail it, and overcome it with Your goodness and mercy. Also, give us glad and happy hearts which take the long, eternal view of life and let us make Godly decisions on everything from that perspective. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO HAS USHERED IN YOUR NEW YEAR WITH FORGIVENESS AND PEACE OF SOUL!
TEXT: Ephesians 5: 15-16: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Do you know why people today like sports so much? It’s the same reason “Jerry Springer” is still on the TV and reality television is so popular. Sports provide a relief valve from the pressure cooker of life. They are a venue for people to blow off steam, to let their emotions burst forth—both for the players and spectators. They serve as escapism from a buttoned-up world where laws, rules, regulations, and lawyers all work together to keep the masses in check.
The Roman empire of St. Paul’s time was also a pressure cooker waiting to blow. On the surface, the Pax Romana, or peace of Roman rule, was supreme. Roman laws were tough. Justice was swift and often bloody. Trade, commerce and industry flowed like a peaceful river—on the surface. But underneath it was seething. The huge population of slave labor yearned to be free. Enemies continually probed the frontier borders. The rot and decay of the political system festered corruption on every level. So Rome turned to their famous “bread and circus” solution. They gave out free food to keep stomachs full and provided sporting events for everyone in the form of their circuses—with gladiators, wild animals, blood and gore.
Amid all this was the fledgling Christian Church. It attracted people who longed for real peace and stability in their lives. These folks saw the downward spiral of price gouging, rampant pornographic lifestyles, their drug culture—yes they had that, too—and the lack of lasting values and morality. These people feared for their children, their wives and husbands, their towns, their future. Like today, they approached each new year with hope for something better, but with fear and trepidation that it would just be: more of the same.
But then they heard the message of Jesus Christ. They heard how God had stepped into their world to save them. They heard how God’s Son had done the humanly impossible by offering Himself up as a sacrifice for their sins against Him. They heard how their sins were paid for in full by Christ’s blood. They heard of Him rising to life, a better, perfect, glorified life, and how He would give it to them if they but believed it. In Christianity, a Godly alternative to “more-of-the-same” was offered. It spoke of hope, comfort, and rising above nastiness of this world. And suddenly people became inspired.
Yet, these new believers still lived in this evil world, it rubbed off on them more often than not, and their sin-tainted flesh sometimes just went along to get along. What we could call: Christian frustration, was born. And with that frustration came inner guilt, regret, the making of bad choices, and the nasty aftereffects. We’d say today that: the life of sanctification is never a bed of roses. We dare not be perfectionistic because we’re not perfect. So the question then arose: How Do We Approach a New Year and Not Get Eaten Alive By It?
Our lesson is God’s answer through St. Paul’s words. Note how he begins: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Carefulness is coupled with wisdom. They go hand-in-hand. So, as we go on our “walkabouts” each day and put in our time—whether it be raising the kids, earning a paycheck, enjoying leisure moments, or interacting with others—we need to make careful choices about what we say or do. We need to wisely focus on the end result of what we’re trying to accomplish and not shoot ourselves in the foot with a silly reaction or a retort that will come back to haunt us.
Evil surrounds the Christian. The old hymn: “The World is Very Evil” is not too popular, but it does speak a truism. So, we dare not let emotional outbursts or quick-tempered words torpedo our walk of faith. We’re not children of darkness but children of the light. We always need to remember that and seek to show it. To do otherwise will pull us down. That’s “making the most of every opportunity.”
Our modern world is very quick to brand us the hypocrite if we even appear to do anything outside of their “pick and choose” understanding of God’s moral code of conduct. It’s easy to undermine years of Godly work in an instant. That’s the thing about this evil world, they forget their own sins, but they never forget ours. And that’s because they don’t have the forgiveness of Jesus Christ in their hearts. Never forget that. Or, as Paul now says: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Elsewhere Paul writes: “God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” His truth is found in Christ’s forgiveness for all sins. His truth includes a knowledge of and obedience to the 10 commandments. His truth is that there is more to this life than our years on planet earth—heaven is our ultimate home. His truth is that faith never disappoints and “we walk by faith and not by sight.” I could go on, but you get the point. Keeping God’s truth and His will foremost in your minds is the cure for avoiding foolishness. Quite frankly, that’s the reason you came to church this morning—to get a shot of Godly truth for the week and for this new year.
Well, now you have it! That’s the easy part. The hard part remains—following our lesson, taking its message to heart, and living it daily. Are you up to the task? A better question would be: “Was Jesus up to the task?” Well, the resurrection obviously proves that He was! And since He gives you a resurrection faith, His victory, “He who has begun a good work in you will continue it unto the day of Jesus Christ,” or heavenly glory! Life for the believer is about walking on egg-shells. And although we often inadvertently crack some of them, don’t let it paralyze you, either. For life is also about asking for and always receiving Godly forgiveness, too…..Amen